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North Argyll Islands Digital Community

Draft report of workshop for Digital Champions April 12 2003.

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The workshop was held as part of a seminar for Digital Champions participating in the pioneering North Argyll Islands Digital Community – one of two digital communities promoted and supported by the Scottish Executive.

Nearly 2000 computers have been distributed to people living on 13 islands off the west coast of Scotland, training courses have been run on the islands, and a new community portal launched. A key part of the strategy is to support volunteer Digital Champions, and paid mentors, who will promote and support use of the computers, the portal and other online activities.

Summary of the workshop

Digital champions and their strategic support team spent two hours ‘playing through’ the activities and projects that may be needed to make the digital community a success. They did this by working in mixed groups, to help people from different island get to know each other. The workshop was facilitated by David Wilcox of Making the Net Work.

The groups invented some typical island situations, and then used a menu of ideas, on cards, to develop action plans to tackle problems and improve or protect the community, economy and environment of the islands. They also added their own ideas.

The strategy team from Argyll and Bute Council and portal developers Unitech developed their own priorities and some strategic objectives for the programme – and fortunately the island and support team views broadly agreed.

Three main strands emerged from the discussion:

  1. More help is needed for champions and members of the digital community, with a support service, help desk, trouble shooting, and clear set of procedures for champions.
  2. More planning is needed to make sure developments meet the needs of the islands, through additional research and visioning workshops.
  3. Priority developments to make use of the technology should include island websites, e-commerce to help businesses, and further development of the 2000Friends site that already provides forum for community members.

Additional suggestions will be developed following circulation of the draft report.

Workshop programme in summary

The programme was

  1. Introduction. David explained that the aim of the workshop was to start some conversations between champions who are trying to do similar things, but who might not have had a chance to meet, and the strategy group. The workshop ‘props’ also aimed to provide a way in which everyone could understand digital possibilities, and plan for the future, even though they might not have a lot of technical knowledge. The focus would be on people and communities, rather than technology. The outcome should be ideas and enthusiasm for the portal.
  2. SWOC. Everyone contributed to flip charts listing the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and challenges facing the digital communities project.
  3. Scenarios. People then split into four groups: one strategy group from the council and Unitech; three groups of champions and mentors with a mix of people from different islands.

    - Each champions’ group invented a fictitious yet ‘typical’ island scenario. These were named Llum, Corran and Atlantis. The scenarios contained a description of the island, and the challenges faced by the people, groups and businesses there.

    - The strategy group reflected on the digital communities project overall, and developed a set of strategic objectives for the programme.

  4. Exchange scenarios. The three island groups passed their invented scenarios on to one of the other groups with the challenge to develop an action plan. The strategy group briefed each island group on what they were aiming to achieve overall.
  5. Action plans. Each group used a set of cards containing a menu of project ideas to develop an action plan for the island challenge they had been given. They could add their own ideas.
  6. Report on plans. Once they had developed action plans, each group reported back to their ‘originating group’, and all then reflected on the insights that the exercise had given them. Although the scenarios were fictitious, they were based on the reality of the 13 North Argyll Islands, and people were using their local knowledge and that of the programme to develop action plans.

Introduction: step 1

David Wilcox explained that the workshop was based on similar events using the card ‘game’ reported on **. The game could be used either to create awareness of possibilities, or for real as part of a development or review process.

Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Challenges: step 2

Everyone was asked to contribute to flip charts to answer the questions: what are the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and challenges as they appear to the champions and mentors. Here are the flip charts, as the comments appeared. Some were duplicated by people saying ‘I agree’. There are shown as (x2)


  • Great opportunities for bringing communities together
  • Got people using computers that have not used them before
  • Although disks are excellent, students find them difficult to follow
  • Increase access to information
  • Empowering people – individually and communities
  • Representation


  • User resistance
  • Very scattered resources
  • Computer crashes
  • PC memory problems (x2)
  • Printer problems
  • “I sometimes think that I know nothing, Mr Fawlty”
  • Lack of user interest due to length of time between receiving PC and start of support
  • Summer weather – i.e. light nights – gardening etc - too busy to attend classes
  • Tourist season on islands – people are too busy running accommodations
  • School closures
  • Lack of technicians
  • Problems with PCs
  • Disaffected non-users


  • True community spirit and strength
  • Commercial promotion
  • Linking many diverse people and organisations
  • Certificate
  • Meeting lots of other island people


  • Time
  • The fact that you cannot train only mentors when some people really need one to one help (x2)
  • Basic tutoring training classes before mentor classes
  • Realising your own limitations (time and capability)
  • Inspire people to realise creative potential of the PC
  • Course books difficult to follow
  • Very different attitudes and aptitudes

Scenarios and action planning: steps 3, 4, 5

Champions and mentors split into three island groups… each representing a small, medium and or large island. They were given the tasks

  1. Invent a typical island

    - who is there

    - what is happening

    - how interested are they

    - what challenges are there

  2. Pass the scenario to the next group. During this time the strategy group developed and presented strategic objectives to all groups.
  3. Use the cards and you own ideas to create an action plan with 15 point budget. (See description of cards later).

    - After choosing cards, consider the resources of skills, support, funding needed

    - ask the resource group how they can help

  4. During this time the strategy group developed its own plan using the cards – no budget limit – in order to establish their priorities.
  5. Report back to the group that gave you the scenario

The ideas cards and action planning sheets

The ideas cards each had three components:

  • A cartoon so the cards can be easily distinguished
  • A description of a project or activity
  • A budget of 1,2 or 3 reflecting the cost or effort of carrying out the activity or project

The set of cards included ideas relating to

  • Champion activities
  • Support for champions
  • Community development process
  • Community activities and projects

The card ideas were (with 1,2,3 budget figures)


Volunteers, mentors or staff help users with technical and other problems


A telephone helpdesk provides advice and support to users


Volunteers develop news, features, photographs and video for the portal and help other users


Volunteers work with tutor/mentors to provide additional support to users


A volunteer policy and rewards system provides clearer roles and recognition for champions.


A dedicated worker - or volunteer - manages and helps champions and their support/training programme


Research identifies community needs and why people may or may not be interested in the digital community.


Workshops with key interests and users engage them in development of projects and a long term vision for the project.


The site continues to develop as an informal complement to the official portal.


The NAI network twins with other communities where champions are playing a strong role in wired up communities in the UK and elsewhere (e.g New Zealand)


Colleges and centres offer online courses and other learning opportunities to adults and children


Public information and services are available online through the portal, allowing transactions at a distance.


Users have access to multi-media facilities to develop their own projects.


Enthusiasts are trained and to create sites and support others


Systems and support for small firms to develop their e-commerce capabilities


Mothers and daughters, fathers and sons - and grandparents - learn together through projects


Workshops introduce people to the scope for tracing family histories, and researching and publishing local history.


People can use audio, video and web pages to raise issues of personal and community interest in their own words.


E-mail newsletters are developed by local groups to complement print newsletters


Discussion lists/forums enable different interests to air their views.


Young people and agencies to produce special web content


Volunteers with differing skills act as 'experts online' to provide an advice forum for other users.

Below are the strategic objectives, scenarios and action plans, linked together for clarity. Additional card ideas – and amendments - generated by groups are shown in red and italics.

Strategic objectives

The following strategic objectives were developed by the strategy group

  1. Maximum participation – PC for all who want one
  2. Create confidence in basic Internet use
  3. Create a central focus point for the project
  4. Secure funding – sustainability
  5. Stimulate social interaction via community groups/support networks
  6. Community ownership of the project
  7. Bridge the geographic divide – access to online resources and services
  8. FUN!
  9. Opportunities to develop all interests
  10. Attracting inward investment via tourism/employment opportunities
  11. Promote the area as a great place to live
  12. Provide all the support we can to the community

    ———————– ——————————- —————————– ———————– Strategic action plan Short Medium Long ———————
    High Needs research Youth projects

    Tutor support Help desk

    Online participation Visioning workshops

    Champion support Web correspondents

    Trouble shooting Stories on the web

    Resolve connectivity issues #### Portal full of content
    Medium Online learning Ask the experts
    Island websites Champion procedures
    2000Friends forum History and genealogy
    Virtual Twinning Family projects

    Low Email newsletters E-commerce
    Services online
    Multimedia projects ———————– ——————————- —————————– ———————–

The island of Llum – pop 2000


  • Many businesses
  • Lots of tourism – seasonal employment
  • Far flung population – many small communities
  • Ageing and rising population
  • Schools – falling rolls
  • Transport – (problems of) access to services
  • High prices particularly petrol
  • Cost of upgrading (off mainland post charges)
  • Low income (Especially related to house prices)
  • Lack of IT professionals

    Llum action plan Short Medium Long

    ###### High Helpdesk Trouble shooting Online participation
    Champion support Needs research Visioning workshop
    Champion procedures

    • Medium Computer – provide training for self help Island websites
      Resources (added by the group after priorising the cards) Planning pf project in detail Conduct surveys – (disability, infrastructure) – external

      Local digichamps – establishing early (too much delay in current project) Analyse the data – external

      Technical assistance Use of existing digi comms to illustrate how new project can work

      Hardware/software for digichamps (to assist with support)

      Analyse costs

      Guidelines for digichamps
      ————————————————————— ————————————————————————— ——————————————————————- ———————- ### The island of Corran – two hours from Oban Size – 20 x 7 miles Population 600 (200 retired, 40 primary school children) Facilities – three churches (more pubs) two shops, Post Office. Primary school, hall, doctor, landing strip Business: 20 B&Bs, 20 self-catering, pottery, four artists, farms, fishing, crafting, tourism, service, conservation, coffee shop, craft centre, boat trips, sea fishing, building. Community – community groups: play group, golf, drama, music, writers, historical society Challenges –Phone line – patchy Internet service - No further education facilities - Cost and difficulties of materials being delivered - Range of skills lacking - ‘Drop outs’ when free ISP access stops - Infrequent health care visits - Digital champion(s) stretched - Businesses are dependent on tourism/passing trade ——————– —————————————- ———————————————————— ————————– Corran action plan Short Medium Long ——————
      ###### High Marketing and community co-ordinator E-commerce Long term vision ->>
      Infrastructure deployment Trouble shooting (with training)

      Long term vision ->> Long term vision ->>
      Medium Island websites Lobbying and fundraising for more money - sustainability

      Web correspondents
      ——————– —————————————- ———————————————————— ————————– ##### Group-generated card ideas in more detail *Marketing and community co-ordinator** - Fundraising help – core money - Volunteer co-ordination - Marketing - Workshops and training - Funded salary Infrastructure deployment - Phone connections - PCs - Basic training 1. The island of Atlantis – small island 12 x 6 miles ————————————————– Two main settlements 300 population. Three hours from the mainly, Ferry twice a week ### Problems of Atlantis - Employment - Limited tourism opportunities - Inaccessibility - Only primary school - Health, transport, phones, services (inc council) - Cost of living, building etc - Planning restrictions – conservation - Change being slow - Lack of general/political awareness of islands needs ———————- —————————- ———————- ——————— Atlantis action plan Short Medium Long ——————–
      ###### High Champion support Online participation Champion procedures
      Helpdesk (local, low cost) 2000Friends Forum

      Needs research
      Medium Ecommerce Ask the experts
      Family projects Low
      ———————- —————————- ———————- ——————— ### Summary of the action plans —————————————————————— ———————— ——————————————- ————————————————— ————————————————– ———- ———- ——— ——— N=Not chosen by any island group No. of Cards and additional ideas from groups Timescale * = where placed by strategy group Priority * = where placed by strategy group ————————————–


      Islands + strategy
      Short Med 3 Champion support 3*
      3 Helpdesk 2 1* 3 Trouble shooting 1*
      2 3 Island websites 1 2* 3 Online participation 1* 1 3 E-commerce 2 3 Champion procedures 1
      2 Needs research 1*
      1 2 2000Friends Forum 2* 2 Web correspondents 1 1* 2 Visioning workshops 1* 2 Family projects
      2 Ask the experts
      N 1 Tutor support 1*
      N 1 Youth projects 1* N 1 Stories on the web 1* N 1 Online learning 1* N 1 Virtual twinning 1* N 1 Email newsletters 1* N
      1 History and Genealogy
      1 Services Online
      1 Multimedia projects
      Project ideas added by island groups or strategy group (=*) 1* Portal full of content 1* 1* Resolve connectivity issues 1*
      1 Infrastructure deployment
      1 Marketing and community co-ordinator
      * Computer - provide training for self help 1

    Lobbying, fundraising for sustainability 1

  • Helpdesk
  • Trouble shooting
  • Champion procedures
  • Needs research
  • Visioning workshops
  • Island websites
  • Online participation
  • E-commerce
  • 2000Friends Forum
  • Web correspondents
  • Family projects
  • Ask the experts
  • Portal full of content
  • Resolve connectivity issues
  • Deploy infrastructure
  • Training
  • Marketing and community coordinator
  • Lobbying, fundraising for sustainability

Request from champions

  • 'We need more computer memory, and more video memory'
  • Support before hardware
  • Priority should be given to technical and other support for general users and for the champions.
  • This and the development of a clear vision, and community engagement, were as import at this stage as specific digital projects.
  • It was now time for taking stock, and working on the next stage of the project now PCs had been delivered and the portal opened.

Analysis: key issues

  • Technical problems including lack of memory in computers
  • The need for continuing training, troubleshooting and support
  • Problems engaging new users with the potential of the technology, when they had other priorities
  • The time it takes to ‘get up to speed’ with the technology
  • Digital champions stretched
  • The possibility people will drop out when free Internet access ends
  • Bringing communities together
  • Access to information
  • New technology skills
  • Empowerment for individuals and communities
  • Business opportunities

Suggestions for next steps

  • More help is needed for champions and members of the digital community, with a support service, help desk, trouble shooting, and clear set of procedures for champions.
  • More planning is needed to make sure developments meet the needs of the islands, through additional research  and visioning workshops.
  • Priority developments to make use of the technology should include island websites, ecommerce to help businesses, and further development of the 2000Friends site that already provides forum for community members.
  • Further awareness raising and community engagement
  • Technical support and trouble shooting
  • Champions support
  • Continuing training
  • Visioning and planning
  • Portal content development
  • DIY user and community project development
  • Sustainability and community ownership
mtnw/nai/north-argyll-islands-digital-community.txt · Last modified: 2017/06/12 10:20 (external edit)